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Can managerless Hartlepool save themselves from the drop to Non-League football?

Wednesday 26th April 2017
Hartlepool United has always been lurking around Skybet League Two's bottom since its relegation to the competition, four seasons ago. However, with relegation from the Football League looming large, the club has just parted company with prolific manager, Dave Jones.

Jones has enjoyed an exciting managerial career, mostly above League Two. Having spent six years in Cardiff, three in Southampton, and a further three at Wolves, you may question why he chose to drop down to League Two with such a prestigious reputation in English football. After admitting, a few days ago, he had placed his reputation on the line by choosing League Two Hartlepool, his gamble has hit back. Jones has been forced to leave the club in Skybet League Two's relegation places with only two from forty-six games remaining.

Interestingly, the club's chairman and directors decided to sack Jones just two days after club president, Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, while on air, called for the club to axe him.

Stelling's live criticism sparked a backlash from Jones, who stated the die-hard Hartlepool fanatic had "disrespected" him. Stelling is probably correct, however. Thirteen points from a possible 51 points during a six-month reign is hardly convincing. Fans were also chanting for Jones' exit during an embarrassing 2-0 loss to Barnet over the weekend.

Jones has left Hartlepool in a rather big mess, even if it was inherited. The team has just two games to turn its fortunes around or face life in non-league football. Those two very important fixtures come against Cheltenham and Doncaster on consecutive Saturdays, beginning this weekend. Whilst many fans may be writing the game against first-placed Doncaster off, with Darren Ferguson's men potentially needing three points to win the league, the Pools' fixture earlier against Cheltenham could be a get-out-of-jail-free card. The Robins are just four points higher up the table, paving the way for a very competitive fixture. There is no choice; the managerless squad must pull up its socks and produce a win against one side or the other.

Hartlepool's main relegation rival, Newport County, are just two points and one position above. With fixtures against Carlisle (tenth) and Notts County (sixteenth) on its card, survival is looking a lot tougher for the Pools than it is the Exiles. Hopefully, Stelling has made the right decision in voicing his opinion to sack Jones at such a crucial moment.
In a throwback to bygone days of player-managers, defender Matthew Bates will be in charge for Hartlepool's final two games. Should he save the Pools' football league status for another season, it may represent a transition to the next stage in the thirty-year-old's football career.
Jack Drury
19 years of age. Sport and Exercise Science Student at Loughborough University. Peterborough United.

Total articles: 76

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